Zen Meditation in Plain English - Foreword

Foreword

This gentle book, reflecting the wise teachings of Taizan Maezumi Roshi, is a wonderful introduction to Zen Buddhism, and also an invitation to new life. To practice Zen means to realize one’s existence in the beauty and clarity of this present moment, rather than letting life unravel in useless daydreaming of the past and future. To “rest in the present” is a state of magical simplicity, although attainment of this state is not as simple as it sounds: most of us need dedicated training under the guidance of a roshi (a Zen master) in order to let the debris of existence fall away. From the very beginning, the sitting meditation called zazen will bring about a strong sense of well-being, as body and mind return to natural harmony with all creation; later there comes true insight into the nature of existence, which is no different from one’s own true nature, or the nature of the Buddha—whose name means “The-One-Who-Knows.”

Zen has been called “the religion before religion,” which is to say that anyone can practice, even those committed to another faith. And the phrase evokes that natural religion of our early childhood, when heaven and a splendorous earth were one. For the new child in the light of spring, there is no self to forget; the eye with which he sees God, in Meister Eckhart’s phrase, is the eye with which God sees him. But that clear eye is soon clouded over by ideas and opinions, preconceptions and abstractions, and simple being becomes encrusted with the armor of ego. Not until years later does an instinct come that a vital sense of mystery has been withdrawn. The sun glints through the pines, and the heart is pierced in a moment of beauty and strange pain, like a memory of paradise.

After that day, there is no beauty without pain, and at the bottom of each breath, there is a hollow place that is filled with longing. That day we become seekers without knowing that we seek, and at first, we long for something “greater” than ourselves, something far away. It is not a return to childhood, for childhood is not a truly enlightened state; yet to seek one’s own true nature is, as one Zen master has said, “a way to lead you to your long-lost home.”

Most of us cast about for years until something in our reading, some stray word, points to the vague outlines of a path. Perhaps this book is the beginning of your homeward way; if so, count yourself lucky, for it offers no tangled analyses, no solutions, only the way to forgetting the self, the way to zazen, to “just sitting.” Through zazen, ideas dissolve, the mind becomes transparent, and in the great stillness of samadhi (Melville called it, “that profound silence, that only voice of God”), there comes an intuitive understanding that what we seek lies nowhere else but in this present moment, right here now where we have always been, in the common miracle of our own divinity. To travel this path, one need not be a “Zen Buddhist”— call yourself a zazen Buddhist if you like! “Zen Buddhist” is only another idea to be discarded, like “enlightenment,” or “Buddha,” or “God.”

 

How to cite this document:
© Zen Center of Los Angeles, Zen Meditation in Plain English (Wisdom Publications, 2002)

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Zen Meditation in Plain English by John Daishin Buksbazen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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